November 2008 Archives

Editor's note: The following public exchange of letters regarding Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) cost overruns has been underway between former SMD Alan Stern and NASA HQ's proxy, Jim Garvin from NASA GSFC for several weeks. Once again, Garvin attempts to play the standard NASA game of moving the goal posts with what amounts to selective semantic mathematics so as to try and decrease the true scope of MSL's cost overrun. Stern, in response, uses Garvin's own numbers and simple math to show that no matter how you try and cook the books, MSL's cost has risen far more than NASA wants to admit.

To be certain, the MSL cost increase itself is troubling. Even more troubling, however, is the broader issue of NASA's continued, coordinated attempt to misrepresent facts so as to hide the truth of how it calculates how much things actually cost - and what the costs actually are. Small wonder no one can ever complete a credible audit of the agency's books. There is simply no way that this agency can expect - or be allowed - to continue to operate in such an irresponsible fashion.

Letters below:

Struggling to Respond

Editor's note: According to NASA sources, NASA Headquarters has been struggling to figure out how to respond to former SMD AA Alan Stern's 24 November op ed "NASA's Black Hole Budgets" which appeared on the New York Times editorial page. Indeed, the latest iteration of HQ's rebuttal is draft #5 (or #6). There has also been a difference of opinion as to whose name to put on the rebuttal when NASA does finally decide how it wants to respond.

Alan Stern on NASA's Cost Increase Problems, earlier post
Lack of Discipline = Slaughter of the Innocents, earlier post

5...4...3...2...Yawwwwwn, ABC News

"What if we saw more of that on NASA TV? What if the cameras were live 24 hours a day on the space station and you could peek at the crew anytime you wanted to and see and hear what they were doing, rather than the one hour a day in the morning NASA lets you see a carefully programmed presentation?"

Editor's note: Did you know that there are as many as a dozen live cameras, some which can send HiDef video back to earth 24-7-365? Many of them look at the ISS and the Earth. Yet JSC refuses to allow that video to be streamed live over the Internet. Even NASA HQ can't make them do it.

As for the more popular aspect of the STS-126 mission, the lost tool bag, this has become a rather popular topic of discussion in the news. And no, the talk on the news does not totally focus on NASA screwing up by losing this bag. Instead, broadcasts such as the NBC Nightly News focused - as did a number of websites - on how anyone can look up track this small object in space all by themselves. Some people have actually videotaped it. Yet I cannot find any evidence that NASA's Human Spaceflight website or on its ISS/Shuttle tracking page have done anything to build upon this obvious public interest so as to facilitate more sightings. At least for a moment, a lot of people could participate albeit from afar, in the observation of this unintended satellite. But NASA does not seem to care.

This points to a critical - and chronic - failure as to how NASA interacts with the public. Something captures the public's attention in a way that normally does not happen with shuttle missions such that they are drawn to lookup at the night sky. Does NASA do anything to encourage that behavior? No. Instead they treat this toolbag as a nuisance - one that they hope will go away. Alas, that is also how they are treating public interest in NASA. And if they are not careful, that interest will most certainly go away too.

Joe Six Pack and NASA, earlier post

STS-126 Update

NASA STS-126 Report #33 Sunday, November 30, 2008 - 4:00 p.m.

""The seven member crew of Endeavour returned to Earth today, landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Mission managers waived landing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida this morning, the shuttle's primary landing site. Thunderstorms and strong winds prevented Endeavour from attempting either of the two opportunities for Kennedy, and the shuttle was diverted to Edwards.""

NASA STS-16 Landing Blog
More Shuttle and Station news
Twitter updates on ISS and STS-126

NASA Presidental Transition Action Item Log

Editor's note: The following is an amalgam of several different versions of a document titled "Presidential Transition Action Item Log" provided by NASA sources this week. More than 80 specific requests to NASA by the Obama Transition Team are listed. This document is maintained by the PA&E (Program Analysis and Evaluation) Office at NASA HQ.

Obama Team Seeks Data on Possible Changes to Ares, Orion, Space News

"U.S. President-elect Barack Obama's NASA transition team is asking U.S. space agency officials to quantify how much money could be saved by canceling the Ares 1 rocket and scaling back the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle next year."

Editor's note: The phone calls and emails are coming in from JSC, MSFC, and KSC. Additional Transition Team action items have made their way to the field centers. These requests seek information into costs that would be associated with Ares 1 cancellation, alternate ways to launch as reduced Orion including EELVs, foreign launch vehicles. Stay tuned - there will be more.

FYI Mike Griffin has made it abundantly clear that he would not stay at NASA if such changes to his architecture were to be recommended. As such it seems to be a virtual certainty that he'll be departing - soon.

NASA MMO Downselect?

UPDATE: NASA Picks Virtual Heroes and Whitecard for MMO?, Virtual Worlds News

"Last month NASA announced that it had selected three proposals to hear for its upcoming educational virtual world. It appears a decision has been made. We were passed what seems to be, though we haven't been able to confirm, an email from MindArk CEO Jan Welter Timkrans to some members of Entropia, which was up for consideration, explaining that NASA had chosen to go in another direction with the project. The email (below) names Virtual Heroes and Project Whitecard as the winners. UPDATE: We heard confirmation from MindArk about the choice and that the developers of Entropia intend to, as NASA suggested, "move ahead with the project independently."

NASA 2.0.2

Netroots Nation: Progressive NASA and Space Policy Under a New Administration (video) (PartI) (Part 2)

NASA Presidental Transition Action Item Log

69. Information Transparency - List the agency's major information dissemination activities (in reports, on web sites, etc.). Describe how the agency decides what information to publish on the Internet and on paper. Identify the agency officials who manage these decisions and to whom they report. Note: OCIO and OP may have inputs

XCOR Aerospace to Announce Ticket Sales for Suborbital Space Flights on December 2nd

"On Tuesday, December 2, XCOR Aerospace, builder of the 2-seat Lynx rocket-powered suborbital launch vehicle, is introducing its General Sales Agent for ticket sales and will announce a price that is substantially lower than prices quoted by leading competitors. XCOR will introduce its new partner, a well-known and established travel entrepreneur with extensive experience in high-end adventure travel, who will outline the total Lynx flight experience, from initial screening, to training, and finally, the flight itself."

NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale's Blog: Last Entry - November 26,2008

"This will be my last entry on this blog as I prepare to transition out of NASA in January 2009. When people, regardless of where they live around the world, find out that I work at NASA, their eyes light up. It is a tribute to this great Agency! People around the world hold NASA in the highest regard. And they should. This is a special place with exciting missions that push the frontiers of human knowledge, and it's filled with people that love the work they do and are completely committed to America's space program."

Editor's note: It appears that NASA is considering slipping MSL's launch to 2010. This will add hundreds of millions of dollars to its final cost without increasing its science value. Monday's New York Times OpEd by former SMD AA Stern pointed out how damaging these out of control mission costs have become - especially when they occur on large missions with hefty political backing. Yet someone still has to pay these costs. Usually, this burden falls upon payloads with less political backing. Science is not necessarily a driver in these decisions. Indeed, often times, whim and political expediency often replaces reason and strategy when the axe falls.

Absent any agency-wide strategic plan or contingencies to deal with such things on an agency-wide basis (given that Ares and Orion have already sucked all of the air out of the room), SMD is left to solve its problems within its retinue of missions. If in fact SMD opts to delay MSL for 2 years it may take much more than 2 years of other mission's funding to pay for the additional costs. Indeed, it is going lead to a proverbial slaughter of the innocents as far as Mars and other planetary missions go. Eventually, however, you run out of innocents to slaughter.

Without clear, fair, consistently applied policies in place to prevent cost overruns - and deal with them when they still manage to occur - no one will be able to figure out which missions get to walk the plank and which ones must be delayed. As a result, NASA will wander from one budget to next spending more time on cleaning up overruns than starting (and completing) new missions.

How will we return to the moon with humans if we can't keep one Mars rover in check? Oh wait, the Exploration crowd already has this cost and schedule problem as well - in spades. Hey gang: its the 21st Century - and yet NASA doesn't seem to be getting any smarter in the cost department. Indeed, the opposite seems to be the trend.

NASA's Black Hole Budgets, OpEd, Alan Stern, NY Times
Shooting The Messenger at NASA, earlier post
MSL Commentary in Science Magazine, earlier post
What the MSL Bailout Looks Like, earlier post
NASA SMD's Cost Overrun Coverup (updated with Telecon notes), earlier post
MSL Heads Toward The Chopping block, earlier post

Transition Update

Editor's note: According to various sources at NASA, among the things being researched by NASA HQ staff in response to inquires by the Obama Transition Team (aka PETT) are: estimates of what it would take to terminate and/or fly the shuttle between FY 2010 and FY 2012; results of PA&E's commercial crew/cargo study; a detailed look at authorized budgets vs actual appropriations (including un-obligated funds); possible lawsuits that NASA is anticipating; contracts needing to be awarded; regulatory issues that may arise; the status of various international arrangements; plans for use of the ISS; and NASA's agreements with the DoD on launch standards and interfaces. In other words, just the routine sort of things you'd expect to be researched and discussed as a hand over was about to take place.

As you can see from this 24 September SMC presentation below, the PA&E folks already had a good idea of what they needed to be prepared to provide. But they did need a little assistance in focusing this effort agency-wide: in that same meeting (according to official notes) Griffin "reminded members that the Agency will have only one transition book, and does not want mission directorates and centers to be working on individual transition documents. He requested that members manage this proactively, and stop independent efforts. He committed to share the transition book with members and to seek their contributions. He requested that everyone remain a NASA team in the next 6 months, and that PA&E provide a status on their activities next month."

NASA Presidential Transition Status, NASA PA&E Presentation given at the 24 September 2008 SMC

CBO Director to Head OMB

Obama Names OMB Director, Washington Post

"[Peter R.] Orszag, 39, is director of the Congressional Budget Office, where he oversees a staff of 235 people who produce nonpartisan analyses of economic and policy issues. Orszag is widely respected for his work on how Americans receive medical care. Unlike many of his predecessors, who hewed closely to pure number-crunching, Orszag has carved out a niche as a leading international thinker on health policy."

CBO: An Analysis of NASA's Plans for Continuing Human Spaceflight After Retiring the Space Shuttle

"For the 10-mission manifest, the probability that NASA can retire the space shuttle fleet by September 2010, in CBO's estimation, is between 20 percent and 60 percent. (The lower boundary of that confidence interval results from using the assumption that the probability of launching the shuttle without a minor delay is 80 percent; the higher end of the range derives from the assumption of a 94 percent probability of a minor delay.)"

NASA Calls for Comment on Draft Ares V Request for Proposals

"NASA has released a draft request for proposals, or RFP, regarding Phase I of its Ares V launch vehicle. The rocket will perform heavy lift and cargo functions as part of the next generation of spacecraft that will return humans to the moon. Phase I will define operational concepts, develop requirements, and refine design concepts for the Ares V. This document is a draft of the final version of the RFP for Phase I, expected in January 2009. By responding to this draft RFP, potential offerors can provide input on the requirements, small business goals and contract structure. The industry input received will be combined with NASA's expertise for potential inclusion in the final version of the RFP for Phase I, which will ask for bids on five Ares V work packages."

NASA 2.0.1

Citizenship 2.0, opinion, Washington Post

"We've finally reached something of a left-right equilibrium in the dramatic restructuring of the public sphere that has been underway for the past decade. Against this background, on Nov. 4 the Obama campaign sent an e-mail to supporters from the president-elect signaling aspirations to convert the campaign's success with social networking technologies into a tool not merely for winning but for good governance. Such a conversion would require transcending the factional patterns that currently define Internet-based political communication. It would demand a category shift: to remake the tools of factional organization as instruments of broad, cross-partisan and respectful public engagement."

Editor's note: I ask again: is NASA prepared for this kind of governance paradigm? Is it at all prepared to interact with rank and file citizenry in this fashion? With its own employees?

NASA 2.0, earlier post

He's Back

Editor's note: Dan Goldin's official portrait has been delivered and is hanging somewhere on the 9th floor.

Have a look: click for larger image.

Tool Time on Orbit

Joe Six Pack and NASA

"We all know by now that STS-126 astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper let go of a tool bag the other day during an EVA in space. A piece of hardware misbehaved, Heide had to deal with that and 19 other things - while item 20 was not getting her full attention and the bag drifted off. Something like this happens to people everyday at work or at home. In Heide's case millions of people were watching on TV and her tools were a bit pricey. Of course, the media had a blast with this since everyone knows that astronauts are perfect and everything that NASA uses costs a zillion dollars an ounce. ...

... imagine if NASA really put some thought into how the STS-125 mission was portrayed to the public - in advance and in real time. This could become as much a blue collar, Joe Six pack hit as it will be a lovefest for all of us space geeks. Wouldn't it be cool, from the perspective of Joe and his pals, to know that they use some of the same tools that astronauts use - and that they can connect with many of the chores being performed in space. You do not need a PhD to do a lot of this EVA stuff."

Confirmation of Political Appointees: Eliciting Nominees' Views on Management Challenges within Agencies and across Government (NASA Excerpt), GAO

"NASA is currently at a crossroad. In response to President Bush's Vision for Space Exploration, the agency is in the midst of phasing out the Space Shuttle Program and beginning another major undertaking, the Constellation Program, which will create the next generation of spacecraft for human spaceflight. This is NASA's biggest transition effort since landing humans on the moon more than three decades ago and then initiating the Space Shuttle Program a few years later. Moreover, it is expected ultimately to cost nearly $230 billion over the next two decades. Numerous people, hardware, and infrastructures will be affected by coming changes. There are also pressures for funds to be spent on other projects, which poses a financing challenge for the agency."

Editor's note: My business partner Marc just got a phone call from a concerned woman named "Elizabeth" in Minnesota.

She said that she was "providing us with a news tip" that the "astronaut tool bag was just found on a golf course in Minnesota."

And guess what - it is now for sale on eBay! Hurry folks and get your bids in - this is a one of kind item and is sure to get snapped up by an eager collector. And there are some of the original contents inside as well - such as a "Sarah Palin button", a cellphone (for text messaging), lipstick, and "some space type tool" (the lube gun is missing). There's not even an single scorch mark from its blistering reentry into Earth's atmosphere! As the seller notes: "Own A Piece of NASA History See What Fell From Space". Who cares if it is against the laws of physics, bid now!

Editor's update: So far 16 Einsteins have placed bids for this supposed item. I sent in a fraud alert several hours ago as did others. Seems that eBay is a little slow in that department today.

Editor's update: eBay finally pulled this hoax offline. Here is a screen grab of what it looked like.

Editor's update: Oh wait, now it is back - some loon (My guess it is our friend "Elizabeth") has posted it again. I am not going to link to it. Another fraud complaint for eBay.

NASA 2.0

President 2.0, Newsweek

"Obama's transition team is already building an organization to carry on the Internet efforts begun during the campaign. On the stump, Obama laid out plans for a technology czar in his administration--a senior-level, or even cabinet-level, post that he promised would make his White House transparent and ultra-efficient. Obama has talked about streaming portions of cabinet meetings live on the Internet in order to reach more people, and not long after his election he gave one of his first "radio" addresses in video form on YouTube. He's also asked that candidates for jobs in his administration submit their information online, so more than just Washington insiders would be considered."

Why Obama should ditch YouTube, CNet

"In this post today, I'll explain why the government needs to step up, host its own videos and why it is simply improper to rely on YouTube to foot the bandwidth bill for Obama's messages to the people. I will also make the case that the use of YouTube and Google Analytics by the Obama transition team violates the privacy website visitors, and possibly even violates federal rules banning the use of permanent tracking cookies on government websites."

Editor's note: Is NASA up to this challenge? Right now, the answer is a resounding "No". But there are some bright sparks here and there. Can NASA adjust and reconfigure itself so as to be 21st century compliant - and in synch with Obama's White House ? You tell me. Lets see if any of the people who will spend their entire careers working in the NASA of the future - i.e. the Net Gen/Gen Y/Next Gen - have anything to add.

Imagine reconnecting NASA, Alan Stern, The Space Review

"The space program of the United States leads the world. It has produced more historic firsts, delivered more discoveries, and possesses more capability than any of our competitors.

Yet, our space program does not enjoy the strong support it once did. A part of the reason for this is that the current program is too disconnected from everyday life and American society. After all, when was the last time you heard that the space program developed something new that directly touched your life and made a tangible difference to you?

But it need not be this way."

NASA's Black Hole Budgets, OpEd, Alan Stern, NY Times

"As a scientist in charge of space sensors and entire space missions before I was at NASA, I myself was involved in projects that overran. But that's no excuse for remaining silent about this growing problem, or failing to champion reform. And when I articulated this problem as the NASA executive in charge of its science program and consistently curtailed cost increases, I found myself eventually admonished and then neutered by still higher ups, precipitating my resignation earlier this year. Endemic project cost increases at NASA begin when scientists and engineers (and sometimes Congress) burden missions with features beyond what is affordable in the stated budget. The problem continues with managers and contractors who accept or encourage such assignments, expecting to eventually be bailed out."

Alan's stern warning, Nature

"S. Alan Stern used to be a big cheese at NASA. From the looks of things, he'd like to be so again. Stern, former associate administrator at the space agency, has been getting his name out there in a big way. He certainly thinks it's time for change. "A cancer is overtaking our space agency: the routine acquiescence to immense cost increases in projects," Stern writes in a New York Times op-ed piece."

SpaceX Successfully Conducts Full Mission-Length Firing of its Falcon 9 Launch Vehicle (with video)

"Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) successfully conducted a full mission-length firing of its Falcon 9 launch vehicle's first stage at its McGregor Test Facility in Texas, on November 22. For the static test firing, the first stage remains firmly secured to the massive vertical test stand, where it fired for 178 seconds or nearly three minutes - simulating the climb of the giant rocket from the surface of the Earth towards orbit."

Massive rocket test in McGregor rattles Central Texas, Waco Tribune

"The orange glow seen over McGregor late Saturday night wasnt a bomb explosion or a Martian invasion. Around 10:30 p.m., SpaceX, a private space exploration technologies company, tested its nine-engine Falcon 9 rocket at the McGregor Airport."

Video below

Editor's note: Just as NASA is getting ready to launch a whole new family of rockets - and commercial space is about to ramp up (Falcon 9) what does Aviation Week and Space Technology do? It closes its Cape Canaveral bureau and fires Dave Hughes (25 years) and Craig Covault (36 years) and for good measure, they fire Dave Collogan who spent 36 years writing for Aviation Daily. Go figure.

I have been reading Craig's reporting on space in Aviation Week since I was in high school in the early 1970's. Those of you who are as baffled and angered by these firings as I am might want to contact Aviation Week's leadership - Tom Henricks (President & CEO) by email at and Tony Velocci (editor in Chief) at - and please post a note of support below as well.

NASA Internal Memo: Message from the Chief Information Officer: Policy for Use of Removable Media, Such as USB "Thumb" Drives

"There is a government-wide increase in the number of IT security threats originating from removable media which infect systems with malicious code and/or remove sensitive data such as usernames, passwords, and encryption keys from user systems.

- Do not use personally owned removable media devices in government-owned systems.
- Do not use government-owned removable media devices on personal machines or machines that do not belong to your agency, department, or organization.
- Do not put unknown removable media devices into ANY system.
- Keep systems up-to-date with the latest patches and anti-virus signatures."

National Cyber Alert System Cyber Security Tip ST08-001,
Pentagon bans computer flash drives, AP

Michael Griffin Chats About NASA's Future Under President Obama, Discovery Space

"In past years, we've had too many examples where that wasn't the case. The Bush administration did not mandate even one person that I had to have to fill out the NASA management team, so I was able to pick a good team and that's absolutely essential for any agency. We can't pick people to run a space agency based on politics and I won't be party to that either."

Editor's note: C'mon Mike. Everyone knows that all government agencies get political hires shoved down their throats. For you to try and suggest that your tenure at NASA is an exception to this practice is silly. What about Paul Morrell?, Joe Davis?, Dave Mould?, Patrick Rhode? Jane Cherry? George Deutsch? Ellen Engelman Conners? And so on.

Top Scientist Rails Against Hirings, Washington Post

"The president of the nation's largest general science organization yesterday sharply criticized recent cases of Bush administration political appointees gaining permanent federal jobs with responsibility for making or administering scientific policies, saying the result would be "to leave wreckage behind."

Administration Moves to Protect Key Appointees, Washington Post

"Just weeks before leaving office, the Interior Department's top lawyer has shifted half a dozen key deputies -- including two former political appointees who have been involved in controversial environmental decisions -- into senior civil service posts."

The Burrowing of the Bushies, Washington Post

"It happens every time a president leaves office: Some of his political appointees don't want to go, so they "burrow in" to the civil service."

Video: Life-saving water A NASA engineer shows how Engineers Without Borders builds water purification systems in developing nations (Video), CNN

Editor's note: CNN has a series hosted by Miles O'Brien titled "Green Warriors" which features the volunteer efforts of JSC personnel via Engineers Without Borders - USAJohnson Space Center Chapter. Their work includes providing clean water and other resources to Third World residents. Although this activity is done outside of their normal work hours, it is too bad that NASA PAO cannot seem to be able to feature their efforts - especially when attention-gathering movie stars like Ashton Kutcher make ignorant comments on national TV that suggest that NASA is not concerned or making contributions.

NASA's space water recycling system has hiccups, AP

"Of all the home-improvement gear delivered to the space station by Endeavour, the water recycling system has drawn the most attention. NASA sees it as the future in deep-space exploration - and also to future life on the home planet. "This technology of how to reuse our things and be careful with them is really applicable to life on planet Earth," Fincke said. Converting urine into drinking water for space station astronauts is not all that different from what happens at water treatment plants on Earth - at a much smaller scale."

Urban growers go high-tech to feed city dwellers, AP

"The technology has benefited from nearly three decades of NASA research aimed at sustaining astronauts in places with even less green space than a typical U.S. city."

Earth to Ashton Kutcher: In Answer to Your Question ..., earlier post
Dude, Where's My Space Program?, earlier post

Editor's note: Now NASA's Chief Information Officer (CIO) position is open at NASA HQ. But hurry up folks - once again it looks like NASA wants to slip this crucially important position under the Transition Team's nose in stealth mode between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The position is open 20 Nov - 4 Dec. That's 5 working days (2 already gone) and then 2 days for a weekend before Thanksgiving. 1 day is lost on Thanksgiving itself, another lost on the Friday afterwards and then 2 more on the weekend. That leaves 4 days before the position closes at COB 4 Dec 2008.

In reality, only 9 working days are being offered by NASA to announce and then gather applications for one of the more critical positions for an agency poised on the cusp of 21st century innovation and exploration in an ever more networked world.

We've all been wondering when Jonathan Pettus would gather up things to bring with him and engineer his return to MSFC (where critical agency IT systems have no back up power supplies).

Given the critical responsibilities of this position (below), wouldn't it be exercising plain old common sense to allow the incoming Obama team to make this selection? Mike Griffin does not seem to think so. Indeed, to allow such a critical position to be filled in this hectic manner is simply irresponsible on Mike Griffin's part.

NASA scales back flagship Mars mission, AP

"Opponents felt the $2 million piece was wasteful, saying any gathered samples will likely degrade over time. They also argued there was no guarantee a future spacecraft would fly to the Mars Science Lab's landing site to collect the basket. Former NASA space sciences chief Alan Stern, who backed the idea, was baffled by the decision. "The Mars program is slowly committing suicide in front of our very eyes," said Stern, who resigned earlier this year. "The only concrete step toward a sample return has been tossed after it has already been built. How does that save money?" Scientists opted to use the space formerly occupied by the storage box for a cleaning station for the spacecraft's instruments."

NASA MEPAG: Analysis of arguments for and against removing the sample cache hardware from MSL

"A wide range of positive and negative reasons for retaining the cache were expressed, reflecting many different prisms of experience. The discussion was unfettered and two diverging lines of thought emerged. 1) Any cache on Mars will be a positive step towards sample return and the cache box should be retained unless it is demonstrated that the MSL objectives will be compromised; and 2) The value of this cache is likely to be low enough that it does not justify the possibility that MSL capabilities or operations will be compromised by its installation, and it should be removed."

Network Security Breaches Plague NASA, Business Week

"In April 2005, cyber-burglars slipped into the digital network of NASA's supposedly super-secure Kennedy Space Center east of Orlando, according to internal NASA documents reviewed by BusinessWeek and never before disclosed. While hundreds of government workers were preparing for a launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery that July, a malignant software program surreptitiously gathered data from computers in the vast Vehicle Assembly Building, where the Shuttle is maintained. The violated network is managed by a joint venture owned by NASA contractors Boeing (BA) and Lockheed Martin (LMT)."

Time to go Mike

Michael Griffin Chats About NASA's Future Under President Obama, Discovery Space

"Irene Klotz: The Government Accountability Office (GAO), in its tally sheet for the new administration, identified the shuttle's retirement as one of the top...

Michael Griffin: ...issues for the transition. Yes, I know. I found that amusing.

IK: Why amusing?

MG: I think the country has enough interesting topics confronting us in the present day and time that space shuttle retirement is probably not deservedly on that list. That's just my opinion. That's a matter of -- to me -- technical program management in the space program and should be approached as such. So I noted the GAO's assessment of that as a top issue for President Obama with some amusement."

Editor's note: I find this exchange rather amusing - and troubling as well. Space policy - specifically human spaceflight - became a significant factor in the 2008 election - albeit focused in Florida - one that both McCain and Obama spent a lot of time on. Position papers and regular statements were regularly fired out by both campaigns - with spill over to a national audience. In addition, the GAO, not always known for its rosy appreciation of NASA's progress, thinks that the future of human spaceflight is a national priority for the new Administration. And Mike Griffin thinks that this is all "amusing" and that space is "probably not deservedly on that list" of national priorities? Gee, talk about a way to take the wind out of every NASA employee's sails. If NASA's leader thinks that space is not important any more...

Time to go Mike.

Mysterious fireball lights up western Canadian sky, (with video) CTV

"While it's still unknown what caused the bright light, residents from northern Saskatchewan to southern Alberta have reported seeing it, the RCMP said. MyNews user Dan Charrois, who lives about 50 kilometres north of Edmonton, said security cameras set up at his home managed to capture some grainy footage showing a big flare in the night sky."

NASA and USAID Bring Earth-Observation Benefits to Africa

"NASA, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and their international partners cut the ribbon Friday in Nairobi, Kenya, for SERVIR-Africa. The SERVIR-Africa system integrates the satellite resources of the United States and other countries into a Web-based Earth information system. This effort puts previously inaccessible information into the hands of local scientists, government leaders and communities to help address concerns related to natural disasters, disease outbreaks, biodiversity and climate change."

Dude, Where's My Space Program?, earlier post

"Kutcher: We send things to Mars. But there are thousands of children that are sold into the sex slave trade every single day. But we send stuff to Mars instead of solving that problem. There's Africa where people are dying of Malaria. There's a quantifiable solution to the problem - and yet we send stuff to Mars - instead of getting bed nets for these people."

Editor's note: Gee Ashton, imagine that, yet another example of how space technology is being applied to real problems on Earth - something that has been going on for 50 years. Alas, this news item will never get past your agents, handlers, and hair stylists before you go on air again and make a fool of yourself.

Editor's note: There is an opening for a Information Technology Specialist in the Architecture and Infrastructure Division of the Office of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) at NASA HQ. The open period extends from 14-28 November 2008 - i.e. only two weeks. This seems to be a little odd: picking such a position in the midst of a presidential administration transition - with the Thanksgiving Day holiday in the middle of the open period. One would think that such a permanent position would allow a wider range off applicants to apply and do so over a longer period of time - one not overlapping a major national holiday when many people take long periods off. Moreover, given the ongoing transition, and the responsibilities this person would have across the entire agency (see below) wouldn't it be better to allow the new NASA management team to fill this position - or decide to handle these tasks differently? Hmm ... on the other hand .. could it be that someone at NASA is looking for a place to "burrow" in from a political to a career position?


The duties of this position include, but are not limited to:

Transition Update

Obama's NASA Dilemma - The fate of the U.S. space program hangs in the balance, Technology Review

"While other presidents have had the luxury of putting off major decisions on NASA, the Obama administration has a deadline. By April 30, 2009, the new president must decide whether to shut down the Space Shuttle program--currently the United States' only way to get humans into space and to service the International Space Station (ISS)--or extend the program at no small cost. While the current administration has signed an authorization bill to keep the Space Shuttle flying until the end of 2010, the legislation only prevents NASA management from mothballing Shuttle-related programs until the end of April 2009."

Dawn Glides Into New Year

"JPL's Dawn spacecraft shut down its ion propulsion system today as scheduled. The spacecraft is now gliding toward a Mars flyby in February of next year."

Editor's note: "JPL's Dawn spacecraft"? The last time I checked NASA (taxpayers) paid for it.

NASA, ATK Successfully Test First Orion Launch Abort Motor (with video)

"Flames shot more than 100 feet high in a successful 5.5-second ground test firing Thursday, Nov. 20, of a launch abort motor for NASA's next generation spacecraft, the Orion crew exploration vehicle. NASA and the Orion industry team conducted the firing at the Alliant Techsystems, or ATK, facility in Promontory, Utah. The abort motor will provide a half-million pounds of thrust to lift the crew module off the Ares I rocket, pulling the crew away safely in the event of an emergency on the launch pad or during the first 300,000 feet of the rocket's climb to orbit."

Glaciers on Mars

NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Spacecraft Detects Buried Glaciers on Mars

"NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has revealed vast Martian glaciers of water ice under protective blankets of rocky debris at much lower latitudes than any ice previously identified on the Red Planet. Scientists analyzed data from the spacecraft's ground-penetrating radar and report in the Nov. 21 issue of the journal Science that buried glaciers extend for dozens of miles from the edges of mountains or cliffs."

Radar Sounding Evidence for Buried Glaciers in the Southern Mid-Latitudes of Mars, Science

Space science missions possible through Constellation

"A new report from the National Research Council, LAUNCHING SCIENCE: SCIENCE OPPORTUNITIES PROVIDED BY NASA'S CONSTELLATION PROGRAM, reviews science missions that would be uniquely suited to the new Constellation system of spacecraft being developed by NASA for human space exploration beyond low Earth orbit. The report evaluates 17 science mission concepts based on their potential to significantly advance a scientific field and therefore benefit from inclusion in the Constellation program. The report also provides preliminary cost estimates for each proposed mission and recommends which to pursue."

NASA OIG: Audit of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Fiscal Year 2008 Financial Statements (Report No. IG-09-006)

"In the "Report of Independent Auditors", E&Y disclaimed an opinion on NASA's financial statements for the fiscal years ended September 30, 2008 and 2007. The disclaimer resulted from continued significant weaknesses in NASA's financial management processes and systems, including issues related to internal controls for property accounting.

The E&Y "Report on Internal Control" includes two significant deficiencies, which are considered to be material weaknesses. Material weaknesses were found in NASA's controls for (1) financial systems, analyses, and oversight used to prepare the financial statements, and (2) assuring that property, plant, and equipment and materials are presented fairly in the financial statements. These material weaknesses have been reported for several years.

The E&Y "Report on Compliance with Laws and Regulations" identifies certain instances in which NASA's financial management systems did not substantially comply with the requirements of the Federal Financial Management Improvement Act of 1996 (FFMIA)."

Astronauts install water recycler, Houston Chronicle

"Shuttle Endeavour's astronauts on Wednesday furnished the international space station with a $250 million water recycler as they surged ahead of schedule to expand the orbital outpost. The recycler, designed to turn urine, wash water and other wastes into drinking water, may be activated later today for a trial run. But NASA won't let the astronauts drink from it until samples are tested for purity back on Earth."

Editor's note: This article is certainly just fine in terms of what it describes. What is curious, however, are the comments that regular people (mostly adults I presume) post. Its almost as if they were all from 5th graders - you know the sort of poo and pee jokes that Beavis and Butthead often made. This is not the Chronicle's fault at all. Its what many people instinctively think when they hear about drinking recycled urine.

I am not certain I want to fault NASA PAO in any way over this since there is little they can do to present this in a way that won't incite the giggle factor (although this easily Googled NASA press release from 2003: "Fun With Urine" Stirs Student's Imagination" probably doesn't exactly help things). That said, there is a chance for NASA to make things like this more relevant to the every day experiences of the general population - as the article does - by talking about domestic water treatment plants. There is also some relevancy, to be certain, to life support challenges faced by our troops in the middle east, researchers at the south pole, hurricane damaged areas in the southern U.S., new green technologies for recycling, etc.

And yes, I have not exactly been totally consistent with regard to my own advice either: my posting of this 2008 memo from JSC "NASA JSC Urine Collection Study Donor Request" spurred dozens of news stories on this same theme including the ever present 5th grade "yuck factor". Of course I knew that this would probably happen.

This is going to be NASA's greatest challenge over the next 4(8) years: to show its true relevancy to everyday life and to do so in a manner that shifts some of the media's and public's preoccupation with all the things that NASA does wrong to the vast majority of things that it does right - often in ways that no other organization - anywhere - has ever done. And in mounting such an effort, NASA needs to be proactive as well as reactive. No this is not "lobbying" or "marketing" - things that get Congress and OMB all upset. Rather, it is simply explaining to people what is being done with their tax dollars - and why.

Editor's note: Actor Ashton Kutcher, well known for film classics such as "Dude, Where's my Car?", appeared on Bill Maher's Real Time Program recently. At one point, he got into a rant about the pointless value of sending things to Mars. Another guest, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) chimed in, and in so doing, showed her own ignorance of facts regarding the current STS-126 mission and the ISS. To be certain, this is a comedy show - of sorts. But it did not seem like the millionaire actor or the badly informed member of Congress were kidding.

Not that everyone in America thinks this way - but when two people from dramatically different backgrounds seem to agree on a point such as this, you have to ask yourself how supporters of space exploration are going to overcome this resistance? Is space exploration of value to the electorate? Is it more important than other things? How do you make that clear? Clearly what has been done to date is not having much effect, polls not withstanding.

Go to this page and click on the 14 November video clip. Transcript of commentary starting at 3:58 into the segment:

Nations Around The World Mark 10th Anniversary Of International Space Station

"Nations around the world will join together to mark a milestone in space exploration this week, celebrating the 10th birthday of a unique research laboratory, the International Space Station. Now the largest spacecraft ever built, the orbital assembly of the space station began with the launch from Kazakhstan of its first bus-sized component, Zarya, on Nov. 20, 1998. The launch began an international construction project of unprecedented complexity and sophistication."

International Space Station: 10 years in the making, USA Today

"Ten years ago today the first module of the International Space Station arrived in orbit nearly 200 miles above Earth. Since that day it has been an global effort with the cooperation of Russian, European, Japanese and other space agencies in constructing the station."

Editor's note: Be certain to visit this link and check out the ISS assembly animation.

Breaking NASA's Glass Ceiling

America's Best Leaders: Fiona Harrison & Maria Zuber, NASA scientists, US News & World Report

"Maria Zuber noticed something strange on her first NASA mission. As a geophysicist in the 1980s, she was working on the science team designing the Mars Observer, an unmanned spacecraft that was supposed to be the first to study the geoscience and climate of Mars. "Somebody called me up," she recalls, "and said, 'Do you know on this mission there are 87 science investigators, and you're the only woman?'"

Gene Goldman Named as Director of NASA Stennis Space Center

"NASA has named Arthur E. (Gene) Goldman as the new director of NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The promotion of Goldman, the center's deputy director since October 2006, is effective immediately. He replaces Bob Cabana, who left in October to become the director of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida."

Editor's note: These three kids seemed to be having quite a time as their father flew them in his private plane on a few weightless parabolics. The exposure to weightlessness was brief - but just long enough to have the desired effect. By the third parabolic the little boy was ready to try gymnastics (ouch).

Transition Update

NASA faces closer scrutiny, Huntsville Times

"The change in the White House, financial problems and a mini-makeover of Congress will bring new scrutiny of NASA, predicted Keith Cowing, a longtime NASA critic who runs the Web site "There's going to be reviews of all government agencies. NASA is not being singled out. It's just what happens when there is a change in administrations. That's what transition teams are doing right now," Cowing said. "They'll make their recommendations and the new Obama administration will go forward from there." Cowing predicted that the changes at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue would put the microscope on high-profile projects - like the Marshall Space Flight Center-managed Ares rockets, new Mars probes and rovers, and an expanded International Space Station - that fall behind schedule or face cost increases. "Obama has promised an emphasis on science and climate, and I think you will see that shift come to NASA," Cowing said."

Nasa loses spider on International Space Station, Times Online

"Astronauts were hunting for a missing party guest as they prepared to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the International Space Station. One of two spiders sent to the orbiting laboratory aboard the space shuttle Endeavour last week was added to the lost property list after the crew checked its tank and found it empty. Anxious to quash fears that the absent arachnid may be marauding around the space station, Nasa managers insisted that the second orb-weaver was not exactly lost, it just couldn't be found. "We don't believe that it's escaped the overall payload enclosure," assured Kirk Shireman, Nasa's deputy space station programme manager."

Monster Mutant Spider at KSC (Video), earlier post

New video: Spiders in Space (below)

Black Zones

Wayne Hale's NASA Blog: Black Zones

"In the 1950's it seemed like almost all of our rockets exploded during the launch. There were a lot of spectacular failures in those days and successes seemed rare. As we considered putting a man in a capsule on top of one of those rockets it was obvious that something was needed to get the pilot out of a bad situation in a hurry. During the Gemini program, that method of "crew escape" consisted of ejection seats which were only slightly modified from those found in that era's military jet fighter aircraft. This left a lot to be desired as we shall see. But Max Faget, the innovative genius behind much of the engineering progress in NASA's early days, had a brilliant idea. He invented something called the launch escape rocket system."

Artist's note: "Wehave created a new color Phoenixmosaic showing the Holy Cow ice blocks blasted free.

Picture Credit:Marco Di Lorenzo,KennethKremer NASA/JPL/UA/Max Planck Institute/Spaceflight.

We just published this in Oct 2008issue of Spaceflight magazine as part of a 10 page Phoenix feature article."

Click on image to enlarge.

Editor's Update: Much to my annoyance, the supplier of this image neglected to tell me that this is a false color image - not a color image taken by the Phoenix itself.

Editor's note: According to this recent ISS image a mini-Gort - as last seen in the 1951 SciFi flick "The Day The Earth Stood Still" - has mysteriously appeared aboard the ISS. You can see it in this image as well.

By some curious coincidence, a remake of this SciFi classic premieres back on Earth on 12 December.

Coincidence? Savvy product placement? Advance invasion bot? Burning Man 2.0 prototype? Stay tuned.

Flip Flopping on EELV Safety

Will the Real Mike Griffin Please Stand Up?

"The Space Frontier Foundation today pointed out that NASA Administrator Dr. Michael Griffin, in an interview with CBS News published last Friday, publicly contradicted his own 2003 testimony to Congress about the safety of flying humans on America's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELVs). "It's one thing for Mike to argue that EELVs can't send astronauts all the way to the Moon. But on Friday he claimed that EELVs are not safe enough, even for the easier job of launching astronauts to Earth orbit, and that's just not true," said Foundation Chairman Berin Szoka. "Just five years ago, Mike testified to Congress that EELVs were safe enough to launch astronauts to low Earth orbit. And the only thing that's changed since then is that the Delta IV and Atlas V systems have, together, successfully flown 20 times," Szoka added."

Transition Update

Editor's update: The Transition Team has added the following individuals:

Alan Ladwig (former Office of Policy and Planning AA)
Ed Heffernan (former Office of Legislative Affairs AA)
George Whitesides (NSS Executive Director).

Science, Tech, Space and Arts Team Lead,

"NASA Review Team Lead

Lori Garver is currently the President of Capital Space, LLC. For the past 25 years, Garver has been a leader in the aerospace community, working in senior roles in the non-profit, government and commercial sectors, including serving as executive director of the National Space Society and as a Vice President of DFI International. In addition, Garver previously served as NASA's Associate Administrator of Policy.

Roderic ("Roddy") Olvera Young is Senior Vice President of TMG Strategies, directing the firm's Technology and Environment team and providing strategic counsel to the firm's clients on their high profile conflict and crisis issues across a range of industries. He previously worked on Banking and Appropriations Committee assignments and served as the Press Secretary to NASA's Administrator as a Presidential appointee."

"@LunarOrbiter says: @MarsPhoenix we're back from the dead ... perhaps you can do the same thing next Martian Spring ..."

@MarsPhoenix [We can't quit you, either! The team saw and loved this today -- very, uh, creative: Enjoy. More news soon]

The Moon View, editorial, New York Times

"Last week, NASA released a newly restored image of a younger Earth. It was taken from Lunar Orbiter 1 in 1966, the first of several orbiters that helped gather data for the first moon landing in 1969. The photograph shows Earth just cresting the Moons curving horizon, the first picture of our planet framed by the surface of the Moon. When the photograph was published, in 1966, it looked like a newsprint version of a high-contrast snapshot from space, a stark scattering of whites and blacks. The data from the lunar orbiter was stored on old analog tape drives. Now, imaging experts at NASA have digitized those drives mining data that could not be recovered when they were first made and produced a high-resolution version of that historic photograph."

"Participatory Exploration" @SEDS SpaceVision,

"These are the slides from my talk at SEDS SpaceVision this weekend in College Station. I don't have talking points yet, but when/if I do, I'll post them here as well - I just wanted to get the slides up as soon as possible."

Editor's 18 Nov note: This is not the first time I have posted presentations created by some of the Gen Y folks at NASA. I have to admit a bias. I have seen them present these presentations more than once. In the cases where I only have charts, I still clearly get the central themes of what it is they are trying to get at - in storyboard fashion.

Having been a creature of cyberspace for more than a decade (I was "blogging" before the word had been coined) I am a bit of a strange hybrid in that regard. I have watched the Gen Y "culture" evolve on a daily basis. That said, I can understand why others (Gen X, Boomer) would look at these charts and/or listen to live presentations on the topic and feel that they are either left out, that the approach used is simplistic, or that the presentations are deficient in one way or another. Context is important.

What really baffles me is the lack of response by the Gen Y community at NASA to this posting - one wherein their presentation has been routinely bashed by others. And its not just an issue with NASA Watch given that their main website is also quiet on this topic.

If Generation Y/Next Gen/Net Gen seeks to change the agency they need to start standing up and being heard when these discussions go on in a public forum.

Full Presentation Below

NASA OIG Report: NASA's Most Serious Management and Performance Challenges

"As required by the Reports Consolidation Act of 2000, this memorandum provides our views of the most serious management and performance challenges facing NASA. We continue to use this forum as a means to draw attention to areas within the Agency's key programs and operations that need to achieve greater economy, efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability. In determining whether to report an issue as a challenge, we consider the significance of the programmatic, institutional, and external concerns in relationship to the Agency's mission; susceptibility to fraud, waste, and abuse; whether problems are systemic; and whether there are safety issues that could result in injury or loss of life. Through various initiatives and by implementing recommendations made by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) and other evaluative bodies, such as the Government Accountability Office (GAO), NASA is working to improve Agency programs and operations and address the following challenges:"

Another "Roadmap", Paul Spudis, Air & Space

"Considerable buzz was generated in space circles last week when The Planetary Society, the keepers of Carl Sagan's flame, released a report that recommended a re-orientation of the Vision for Space Exploration. This report was based in part on the results of an invitation-only workshop held at Stanford University last February. The object of that workshop was to examine U. S. national space policy with the specific aim of determining whether goals intermediate to a human mission to Mars other than the Moon were feasible and desirable. ... Space is a big place and ripe with many possibilities. The Planetary Society wants to keep it a sanctuary for science, regulated and ruled by scientists for scientific purposes. The Vision is about expanding opportunities in space for many different and varied parties, including scientists. "

Planetary Society Steps Beyond Moon for Roadmap to Space
Planetary Society Responds to Schmitt Resignation, earlier post
Former NAC Chair Jack Schmitt Quits Planetary Society Over New Roadmap, earlier post
Alt.VSE Meeting Postscript: No One From NASA Took Notes, earlier post
Stanford VSE Update Meeting: Yawn, earlier post
VSE Upgrade Update, earlier post
Alt.VSE Update, earlier post
Revising the VSE: Keeping Our Eyes On The Prize, earlier post

Moon Vs Mars

Why NASA should focus on the Moon, not Mars, Henry Spencer, New Scientist

"An exclusive focus on Mars does have one thing going for it. If you believe that any resumption of manned space exploration will inevitably end the way Apollo did, with follow-on programmes cancelled and flight-ready hardware consigned to museums as soon as the programme's first objective is met, then choosing the most interesting single destination makes sense. However . . . haven't we learned anything from doing that once? To me, it makes far more sense to try to build a programme that won't crash and burn as soon as it scores its first goal. That means systematically building capabilities and infrastructure, and doing first things first even if they aren't the most exciting parts."

Editor's note: Google Lunar X Prize is looking to get 500 Twitter followers. Why not help them out!

India Has Space fever

Indian space agency Isro to roll out a rival to Google Earth, Times Online

"Emboldened by its first mission to the Moon, India is to take on a target closer to Earth: Google. The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro), which is based in Bangalore, the Silicon Valley of the sub-continent, will roll-out a rival to Google Earth, the hugely popular online satellite imagery service, by the end of the month. The project, dubbed Bhuvan (Sanskrit for Earth), will allow users to zoon in to areas as small as 10 metres wide, compared to the 200 metre wide zoom limit on Google Earth."

ISRO starts work on Chandrayaan-2,

"After the great success of Chandrayaan-1, the Indian government has given the go-ahead to Chandrayaan-2. Chandrayaan-1's project director has said that ISRO has started research for Chandrayaan-2, for which the Indian government has sanctioned the required funds."

NASA Successfully Tests First Deep Space Internet

"NASA has successfully tested the first deep space communications network modeled on the Internet. Working as part of a NASA-wide team, engineers from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., used software called Disruption-Tolerant Networking, or DTN, to transmit dozens of space images to and from a NASA science spacecraft located about 20 million miles from Earth. "This is the first step in creating a totally new space communications capability, an interplanetary Internet," said Adrian Hooke, team lead and manager of space-networking architecture, technology and standards at NASA Headquarters in Washington."

Final Memorandum on the Review of NASA Stolen Property at Goddard Space Flight Center and Marshall Space Flight Center

"At GSFC, stolen property was not always properly recorded and reported in accordance with NASA guidance because information about stolen property incidents was not reconciled between logistics and security offices. At MSFC, we found that the MSFC logistics office's process of referring all NASA property incidents to the security office resulted in stolen property incidents being recorded and reported in compliance with NASA policies and procedures."

Search for life on Mars is frozen, Colin Pillinger, Telegraph

"Some time earlier this month, Nasa's Phoenix Lander slipped into a cold-induced coma in the Arctic wastes of the Red Planet. With the onset of winter, the Sun dropped low in the sky, and the temperature fell to -1,300C at night."

Editor's original note 17 Nov 10:30 pm EST: Hmmm ... that's certainly news: Mars is colder than Absolute Zero at Night. Who knew? Also, as one reader notes, Colin seems to think that there are forms of life that live at 1,200C. Now THAT would be news.

Reader note 18 Nov 12:22 pm EST: "The -1,300 C error has just been fixed but the extremophiles are still thriving at 1200 C near undersea vents. Under more pressure than a journalist with a deadline."

Hydrothermal vent, WIkipedia

"The water emerges from a hydrothermal vent at temperatures ranging up to 400C, compared to a typical 2C for the surrounding deep ocean water. The high pressure at these depths significantly expands the thermal range at which water remains liquid, and so the water doesn't boil. Water at a depth of 3,000 m and a temperature of 407C becomes supercritical.[4] However the increase in salinity pushes the water closer to its critical point."

Editor's note: The following email was sent to various members of the media and has been making the rounds.

From: Louis Friedman
Date: 18 November 2008 06:41:56 GMT
To: LUNAR-L@LISTSERV.ND.EDU, Harrison H. Schmitt
Cc: [MEDIA, etc.]
Subject: Senator Schmitt's Resignation from The Planetary Society

Dear All,

We received Jack Schmitt's open letter to us, "Resignation from [The Planetary] Society." which he has now distributed more widely. Because we think that our agreement is much stronger than our disagreement, we are asking him to reconsider:

Restored: First Image of the Earth from the Moon, APOD

"Explanation: Pictured above is the first image ever taken of the Earth from the Moon. The image was taken in 1966 by Lunar Orbiter 1 and heralded by then-journalists as the Image of the Century. It was taken about two years before the Apollo 8 crew snapped its more famous color cousin. Recently, modern technology has allowed the recovery of higher resolution images from old data sources such as Lunar Orbiter tapes than ever before. Specifically, the above image recovery was part of the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project. Images like that above carry more than aesthetic value -- comparison to recent high definition images of the Moon enables investigations into how the Moon has been changing."

More information at

China Space Spy Confesses

Physicist admits sending US space know-how to China, AFP

"A Chinese-born physicist Monday pleaded guilty before a US court to illegally exporting American military space know-how to China, US officials said. Naturalized US citizen Shu Quan-Sheng, admitted handing over to Beijing information on the design and development of a fueling system for space launch vehicles between 2003 and 2007, the Justice Department said. Shu, 68, pleaded guilty to violating the Arms Export Control Act by helping Chinese officials based at the space facility on southern Hainan island to develop manned space flight and future missions to the Moon."

Mars lander showed a human side, so fans took 'death' personally, Arizona Star

"What began as a way for people to stay engaged with the mission during its landing over Memorial Day weekend soon morphed into a phenomenon in which those working on educating the public about the mission were posing as the lander itself, responding with a distinct voice and personality. "It certainly evolved," Veronica McGregor, a spokeswomen for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory who crafted the "voice" of Phoenix, said of the lander's online personality. "We really thought that this would be a nice way for people to keep up with the mission, but we didn't expect this kind of response. ... Writing on Gizmodo, McGregor tried to rationalize Phoenix's demise."

Editor's note: I asked Veronica McGregor if she could provide me links to NASA's versions of these articles on Gizmodo. Given that she works for NASA PAO, her writings as part of her PAO activities are in the public domain. Despite several email requests, she never responded to my request for the text - or provided a reason why NASA never linked to these articles she wrote.

Editor's update: After three emails spanning 11 days (with others at NASA PAO cc:ed), and a posting on NASA Watch, Veronica finally replied telling me where the stories I had requested were posted. It would seem that they were added just yesterday since Google has yet to even index them. Yet they were provided (exclusively) to Gizmodo more than a week and a half ago.

Editor's note: The following email was sent to various members of the media and has been making the rounds.

From: Harrison H. Schmitt
Cc: [multiple members of the media]
Sent: Fri Nov 14 14:18:13 2008
Subject: Resignation from Society

Dear Lou, Jim and Scott

I am sorry, but I can no longer support the society in its goals as they seem to have gone back to being more political than rational. I want humankind on Mars more than most, but I, at least, feel obligated to look at this goal rationally. Specifically, relative to your bullet points:

Just Pick the Wrong People

NASA chief doubts he'll keep job during Obama administration, Houston Chronicle

"I didn't have anybody crammed down my throat. We have done that experiment at NASA - to see if people who don't know anything about the space business can run NASA," Griffin said. "It didn't work. I know how to fail. Just pick the wrong people, and you are doomed."

Editor's note: "Just pick the wrong people, and you are doomed." Indeed, Mike. Not listening to the advice of others is equally effective in that regard.

NASA Scales Up 1966's Moon Image to Amazing Ultra-High Resolution, Gizmodo

"When NASA released this image from their Lunar Orbiter 1 back in 1966, the first photograph ever of the Earth rising above the Moon's surface, it was low resolution but they still amazed the world. This week, they have surprised every space aficionado re-releasing the same image in ultra-high definition. The cool part now is that NASA hasn't used any upscaling or magical infinite zoom-in filter from CSI. Instead, they have created a new technology that uses refurbished analog machines and a new digital process that fully extracts the information stored in the program's old magnetic tapes, something that was impossible to do in the 60s. Click on the image to watch it in its 3673 x 1740 pixel glory."

LunarOrbiter Twitter is now online.

The world has never seen such freezing heat, Telegraph

"So what explained the anomaly? GISS's computerised temperature maps seemed to show readings across a large part of Russia had been up to 10 degrees higher than normal. But when expert readers of the two leading warming-sceptic blogs, Watts Up With That and Climate Audit, began detailed analysis of the GISS data they made an astonishing discovery. The reason for the freak figures was that scores of temperature records from Russia and elsewhere were not based on October readings at all. Figures from the previous month had simply been carried over and repeated two months running."

Endeavour Docks With ISS

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 16 November 2008

"STS-126/Endeavour docked smoothly at the ISS PMA-2 (Pressurized Mating Adapter-2) port at 5:01pm EST, four minutes ahead of timeline, in darkness (orbital sunset ~4:34pm/sunrise ~5:09pm)."

STS-126 Arrives at the International Space Station

"The station and shuttle crews will open the hatches between their vehicles and greet each other in about two hours. Sandra Magnus, who arrived aboard Endeavour, will swap Soyuz seatliners with station astronaut Greg Chamitoff and replace him as Expedition 18 Flight Engineer."

Check shuttlestation on Twitter for updates.

NASA Animation: Landing on the Moon

Editor's note: Curiously, this video shows every engine burn that is reqired in the process of getting astronauts and their hardware to the Moon using Ares 1, Ares V, Orion, Altair, EDS - except the use of a burn of the Orion's Serivce Module to place Orion into Earth orbit. Did they leave this out for artistic reasons - or is NASA just shy about admitting that the Service Module functions as a third stage on Ares 1?

The Path Ahead

Obama's space plans (Video), CNN

"CNN's Miles O'Brien asks what the new president might mean for the U.S. space program."

NASA chief says U.S. must stick to moon plan, Reuters

"If President-elect Barack Obama wants to abandon NASA's road map to the moon, the space agency's chief says he wants no part of it. Not that NASA administrator Mike Griffin, a Bush administration appointee, is expecting to stay on when the Democrat takes office on January 20."

NASA Chief Doubts He'll Keep Job Under Obama, 13 Central Florida News

"Officials close to Obama's transition team said the new president is likely to review Constellation, which is having technical and financial problems that could delay its first mission, currently scheduled for 2015."

Final Memorandum on Review of NASA's Consolidation of Information Technology Purchases under the Outsourcing Desktop Initiative (Redacted)

"We found that by consolidating category 1 IT purchases, NASA could achieve efficiencies and associated benefits including cost effectiveness, through value-added services included in the cost of an IT purchase made through ODIN. We determined that for category 3 IT purchases, in some instances, ODIN's prices for specific items were higher than prices advertised by IT suppliers dealing through the Internet. During our review, we also found that NASA does not have formalized procedures for negotiating price modifications from ODIN and does not provide instructions for employees on how to seek and identify lower costs than ODIN's for category 3 IT purchases. Providing price negotiation procedures and instructions could provide NASA cost savings for category 3 IT purchases in the future."

Opera in Space

Editor's note: It is nice to see people at NASA thinking outside the box. Not everyone is a geek and there as many ways to engage public interest in space exploration as there are people to be engaged. I just hope they stay away from Klingon Opera.

From: White, Susan M. (JSC-AE)
Sent: Friday, November 14, 2008 10:17 AM
Subject: Opera and ISS in Education

Are you an opera fan?

If so, JSC Education could use your help. We're seeking an individual with ISS knowledge and a passion for the art to support our brainstorming session on Tuesday, Nov. 18. Our first brainstorming session will develop an opera theme around the ISS 10th anniversary of its human presence. We're collaborating with the Houston Grand Opera (HGO) to design a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) focused opera to take into the HISD school system creating a connection between the arts and sciences.

Axel Roth

Editor's note: Internal NASA MSFC message: "Axel Roth, who served as Marshall Center associate director before retiring in 2004, passed away Nov. 12. Visitation will be held from 5-7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 14, at Laughlin Funeral Home in Huntsville. Funeral services will be held from 1-3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 15, at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Huntsville (on Bailey Cove Rd in SE Huntsville)."

Alvin Man Indicted on Allegations He Gave NASA Faulty Shuttle Part, Fox 26

"As Space Shuttle Endeavour gets ready to launch Friday night, a NASA contractor is facing a 2-count federal indictment involving shuttle parts. A federal grand jury indicted 60-year-old Richard Harmon, owner of Cornerstone Machining, Inc. in Alvin. He is charged with fraud and making a false statement. ... According to the indictment, "If NASA had used the damaged PFIP as planned to secure cargo to the Endeavour the weld could have cracked open during flight, allowed cargo to come loose and possibly result in the loss of the spacecraft."

NASA HQ Internal Memo: Transition Procedures and Contacts

"Pursuant to the November 8, 2008 Memorandum of Understanding Regarding Transition Procedures, Identification of Transition Contacts, and Access to Non-Public Government and Transition information (MOU), and the accompanying Policy Statement Concerning Identification of Transition Contacts and Information Disclosure to Transition Personnel, the following individuals are authorized by the President-elect's Transition Team to work with NASA: Lori Garver, Roderic Young"

Changing NASA's Course? MSNBC

"In a follow-up phone call, Young confirmed the NASA Watch report and told me that he and Garver were just beginning their talks with space agency officials. Substantive policy discussions are not on the agenda right now. "It's high on listening, and offering options," he said."

Repaired data drives restoring the Moon, Collectspace

"Still, it took some experimentation to understand how the data was organized and what was on the tape. "It was not unlike the scene from the movie 'Contact' where they think they have a video signal but they are not sure and they sort of monkey with the gear and they plug things in and they say, 'Hey look! That's a video signal'. As they play with it further they suddenly say, 'Oh look, maybe we rotate it that way, flip the contrast,' and they eventually find out they've got a video signal and they're sitting there and playing with it and 'Look, more data!' and that's how it happened," described Cowing."

Odyssey Moon Collaborates with NASA Funded Team Recovering Never Seen Before Detailed Images of the Moon

"In support of the project Odyssey Moon supported the salary of an intern who provided direct support to the project's refurbishment of the original data tape drives. Odyssey Moon has also provided funding to the team to allow specific areas of the publicly released imagery to be enhanced for use in mission planning."

Transition Update

Editor's note: So far nothing official has emerged regarding possible Administrator replacements for (likely) outgoing Administrator Mike Griffin - other than the usual rumors, gossip, and chatter (which I have tried to avoid promoting on NASA Watch.). However, this chart is making its way around town. While NASA is not included, it is interesting to see that the environment may take on an unusual prominence (Al Gore as "Climate Czar"). One would think that NASA's Earth Science work would become much more important than it has been for the past 8 years.

Gore says no to 'Climate Czar' role, Washington Times

"President-elect Barack Obama's transition team is flirting with creating a White House "Climate Czar," but climate change crusader Al Gore says he doesn't want the job."

This video shows a Lunar Orbiter image framelet being retrieved from an original data tape using a restored FR-900 tape drive. Watch the monitor between the two tape drives as portions of the image (negative image) roll across the screen. This activity is part of the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) underway at NASA ARC.

Video below.

Planetary Society Steps Beyond Moon for Roadmap to Space

"Several priorities came to light. For human exploration, Mars is clearly the next crucial goal. Lunar exploration can be an intermediate step towards that goal, but care needs to be taken that it not absorb too many resources and become the end goal in itself."

Moon takes a backseat in new space plan, New Scientist

"Instead of trying to recapture the thrill of the Apollo era of lunar exploration by putting people back on the Moon by 2020 - the vision outlined by President Bush in 2004 - the space advocacy organisation is urging the incoming Administration and Congress to set its sights farther beyond Earth."

Editor's note: I am not certain why anyone would take the Planetary Society seriously when it issues these roadmaps. First they were against humans back to the moon. Then, when NASA wants to go there and the notion is trendy, they are for it. Now that things are uncertain, they are against it again.

Griffin Departure Nearing?

Griffin: I'd like to stay but..., Orlando Sentinel

"NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said Thursday that he would like to continue serving under President-elect Barack Obama - but doesn't expect to be asked. "If the next president asks me to continue I would be happy to do it," said Griffin, speaking to Kennedy Space Center workers. But, he said, "I doubt that will happen." He said he would stay on only "under the right circumstances," including being able to continue the Constellation program meant to replace the space shuttle. "If somebody wanted me to stay on but said, 'No, we need to go over here,' well," he said with a shrug, "do it with somebody else."

Griffin not optimistic about staying on as head of NASA, SpaceflightNow

"NASA Administrator Mike Griffin, answering questions from Kennedy Space Center workers during an "all hands" meeting today, said he does not expect the Obama administration to keep him on as head of the nation's civilian space agency."

NASA Restores Historic Lunar Orbiter Image

"NASA released a newly restored 42-year-old image of Earth on Thursday. The Lunar Orbiter 1 spacecraft took the iconic photograph of Earth rising above the lunar surface in 1966. Using refurbished machinery and modern digital technology, NASA produced the image at a much higher resolution than was possible when it was originally taken. The data may help the next generation of explorers as NASA prepares to return to the moon. In the late 1960s, NASA sent five Lunar Orbiter missions to photograph the surface of the moon and gain a better understanding of the lunar environment in advance of the Apollo program. Data were recorded on large magnetic tapes and transferred to photographic film for scientific analysis. When these images were first retrieved from lunar orbit, only a portion of their true resolution was available because of the limited technology available."

More images and background information are online at

NASA swoons over rescued moons; decades-old lunar photos no longer lost in space, AP

"These photos will have some use, said Wingo's partner, Keith Cowing, head of Spaceref Interactive, which runs space-themed Web sites. When NASA launches its next high-tech lunar probe in the spring, the space agency can compare detailed high-resolution images from 1966 to 2009 and see what changes occurred in 43 years, he said. "What this gives you is literally before and after photos," Cowing said. "This is like a time machine."

NASA unveils lunar image recovery project, CNet

"This project is an opportunity to revel in what was done in the past," said Pete Worden, director of Ames Research Center, "and get excited about what we're doing in the future."

Rescued Moon Photos Restored to Unprecedented Detail, Universe Today

"Earlier this week we had a story about old data from the Apollo missions that could potentially be lost if an "antique" computer from the 1960's can't be renovated. But now comes good news about more old data which has actually been restored and enhanced to an exceedingly high quality."

New pictures of the moon discovered (video), KGO

"It's maybe the last place you might expect to resurrect history. There is an abandoned McDonalds near Moffett Field, with plenty of floor space for 1,894 video tapes. "We liken it to archeology. Techno-archeology," said Dennis Wingo, an imaging expert."

Update: Video - Equipment used to restore images.

Transition Update

Officials Guiding the Process Are Named, Washington Post

"The Obama transition team yesterday rolled out a new list of officials who will help guide the process, singling out the Treasury, Defense and State departments as its first three areas of focus. The transition team also set in motion a plan to review the policies and budgets at federal agencies and prepared to hire new personnel. .... Tom Wheeler: Science, technology, space and arts agencies. On leave from Core Capital Partners, a venture capital firm that works with early-stage technology companies, where he is a managing director."

Editor's note: I am expecting to see the NASA team formally named shortly.

Reader note: "John Podesta is both the leader of Barack Obama's transition team and the progressive Center for American Progress think tank. CPA has just released the de facto Obama playbook, Change for America: A Progressive Blueprint for the 44th President. The table of contents identifies no specific chapter devoted to space exploration.

However, a separate position paper entitled The U.S. Space Program: Restoring Preeminence in Space Science and Exploration by Neal Lane and George Abbey is included elsewhere on the site."

NASA Announces Exploration Systems Mission Directorate Leadership Changes

"NASA Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Rick Gilbrech announced Wednesday that he will be leaving the agency for a position in the private sector. NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin announced that Doug Cooke, who has been serving as deputy associate administrator for the directorate since its inception in January 2004, will become the associate administrator. The change is effective Nov. 24."

Historic Moon Image Restored

NASA Unveils 42-Year-old Historic Lunar Image

"NASA will hold a media briefing at 3 p.m. PST on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2008, to unveil a newly restored historic image from the early days of lunar exploration and discuss the innovative processing technique used to retrieve the image. The briefing will take place in the Ames Research Center auditorium, Bldg. N-201. NASA officials will be available to discuss the recovery process and the scientific value of the iconic images to the next generation of explorers as NASA plans to return to the moon. A tour of the restoration facility will be offered following the briefing."

STS-126 Update

Cold front could thwart Friday's shuttle launch, AP

"An approaching cold front could thwart NASA's plans to launch space shuttle Endeavour on Friday on a flight to the international space station. The front was moving across the central part of the nation Tuesday and was expected to bring rain and thick clouds to the launch site by week's end. Shuttle weather officer Kathy Winters said there was a 60 percent chance of acceptable conditions at the 7:55 p.m. Friday liftoff time and only a 40 percent chance on Saturday."

Editor's note: I have resigned as an advisor to SEDS - Students for the Exploration and Development of Space. I have deleted the text of my original posting from last night. Suffice it to say I have grown tired of SEDS members sending me mixed messages about things. I should have just quit quietly and left it at that. Sorry for the armwaving.

Farewell Phoenix

NASA Mars Phoenix Lander Finishes Successful Work on Red Planet

"NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander has ceased communications after operating for more than five months. As anticipated, seasonal decline in sunshine at the robot's arctic landing site is not providing enough sunlight for the solar arrays to collect the power necessary to charge batteries that operate the lander's instruments. Mission engineers last received a signal from the lander on Nov. 2. Phoenix, in addition to shorter daylight, has encountered a dustier sky, more clouds and colder temperatures as the northern Mars summer approaches autumn."

Transition Update

NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale's Blog: Presidential Transition

"Since mid-summer NASA has been preparing for the Presidential transition that is now upon us. The Office of Management and Budget has led the efforts across the government and has been very forward leaning with both campaign teams to be ready to initiate a smooth transition, particularly with the challenges that we face as a nation today. While NASA usually does not factor as a near-term decision for incoming Administrations, this year the General Accounting Office (GAO) highlighted Shuttle retirement as one of its top 13 urgent issues across the government."

Space: Hoping for Change (Eric Sterner),

"President Obama himself is the wild card in the mix. During the Democratic primaries, he planned to cut into the Constellation program to pay for increased educational spending. Yet by the general election he had reversed himself and promised increased funding to close the gap between shuttle retirement in 2010 and Constellation's arrival in 2015. Does this change represent a true change of heart and the beginning of a commitment to our future in space, or an opportunistic campaign tactic to appeal to voters along Florida's important space coast? That remains to be seen."

More cash may flow for science, research, Huntsville Times

"Currently, NASA spends more than $5 billion of its $18 billion budget on human spaceflight, including the space shuttle program. Marshall's annual budget runs about $2.5 billion. For the Ares program, costly delays could threaten the shuttle replacement rockets, said Victoria Samson, a defense and space expert at the Center for Defense Information. Ares "has had a troubled development," she said. "There've been reports of shaking and wind trouble. It doesn't mean Ares won't eventually work, but it has to be sooner rather than later if the money is to keep coming."

NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander Guest Blogging on Giz, Gizmodo

"We'd like to introduce our newest guest bloggerthe Phoenix Mars Lander. With a successful mission starting to wind down as a cold winter rapidly descends upon its landing site in the Martian arctic, we're pretty happy that Phoenix, (already a prolific Twitterer) has agreed to look back with us on its amazing life over the course of its final days on Mars.

Here Phoenix starts with the very beginning of the story. We're pretty sure a spacecraft has never guest-edited a blog before. Enjoy."

Nelson tells Obama to keep Griffin -- for now, Orlando Sentinel

"Sen. Bill Nelson wants Michael Griffin to run NASA until President-elect Barack Obama finds a "surefire" replacement, according to an aide to the Florida Democrat. Nelson expressed his wishes in a phone call this week to Lori Garver, who is running Obama's NASA transition team. "He called Lori Garver and said that until they had a surefire choice, they should continue with Griffin. And he thinks Griffin is doing a good job," said Bryan Gulley, a Nelson spokesman. Gulley would not say who Nelson would support if or when Obama picks a new NASA administrator."

Editor's update: The transition Team, widely rumored (but not yet officially confirmed) to headed by Lori Garver, is due to begin work at NASA HQ next Monday.

ARC's New Green Building

NASA ARC Solicitation: Construction of Collaborative Support Facility Building N232

"NASA/ARC is hereby soliciting information about potential sources for the construction of a Collaborative Support Facility, Building N232. NASA Ames Research Center plans to construct a new building to be located on the existing Bush Circle at Moffett Field, California. The building and the on-site work shall be constructed as sustainable entities. The project is being designed with a goal to achieve LEED-NC v2.2 Platinum Certification. The requirements for sustainable construction will be contained throughout the contract documents."

AIP FYI #104: Obama Urged to Quickly Name Science Advisor

"Almost 180 organizations, including the American Institute of Physics, the American Physical Society, and the American Astronomical Society signed letters to Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain urging them to quickly appoint a White House Science Advisor by Inauguration Day. The October letters also ask that this position be called the Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and that it be made a cabinet-level position."

Obama Space Policy News

New attitude: Obama vows change, agency by agency, AP

"Obama is a space fan, and a troubled NASA is counting on that. NASA doesn't have enough money to do all it has planned and is facing key decisions about its embryonic return-to-the-moon program, new rocketship and about-to-retire space shuttle program. The current NASA plan would have the space shuttle end in 2010 and astronauts not ready to fly in a new moon rocket until 2015. In the five years in between, America would have to rely on the Russians to take astronauts to the mostly U.S.-funded international space station. NASA's robotic Mars program is in disarray, and its Earth-observing program has been downsized. The Obama campaign said it supports a "robust" program of robotic probes and space-based telescopes and satellites. It also emphasized education and NASA's role in climate change research."

5 Signs President-Elect Obama Is a Geek, Wired

"Barack Obama, soon to become the 44th President of the U.S.A., is many things: a statesman, a lawyer, an author, and an orator. It is also our opinion at GeekDad that, even without knowing him personally, we have enough evidence to demonstrate that he is a big geek. Even if you didn't want him to win the election, you have to admit that it would be awesome for him to be not only the first African-American President, but also the first geek President."

MSL Commentary in Science Magazine

"Finally, there was no mention that a NASA independent review team found numerous development issues that called MSL's 2009 launch date into serious doubt almost a year ago. Nor did it describe that scenarios for dealing with MSL without causing such deep budgetary damage elsewhere were proposed by SMD but rejected at higher levels in early 2008. That, and the concurrent, forced disbanding of the MSL independent review team, precipitated my resignation as SMD Associate Administrator."

Editor's note: NASA Watch has learned that the individual personally responsible for the disbanding of the MSL independent "Cost To Go" review team early this year was none other than NASA Associate Administrator Chris Scolese. He did not like the findings they were bringing forth. It seems that in his NASA, when you don't like bad cost news you either move the goal posts until you get the news you want - or you get rid of the messengers - or both. NASA Watch has also learned that several publications are preparing stories based on additional information provided by individuals in NASA, JPL, and the space science community. With the coming of the new Administration, perhaps Mr. Scolese and others with this old attitude should be "looking in their rear view mirrors".

Change is coming.

Editor's update: Still no response from NASA. However, some of the comments are interesting - even if many people prefer to remain anonymous.

Keith Sefton

Internal memo: Keith Sefton's Memorial Arrangements

"Keith's life will be celebrated with a Memorial service to be held at the Marine Corps Base Quantico Chapel at 1300 (1 PM) on Friday, November 14th. At the conclusion of the service, a good old "Irish wake" will be held at an appropriate location near the chapel. All are welcome. Keith will be interned at Arlington Memorial Ceremony next spring."

NASA Mourns the Loss of Deputy General Counsel Keith T. Sefton

"Keith was known by his call sign, "Words," both for his prodigious talent as a writer and his ability to get right to the point. If Diogenes were still searching for the "honest man," it would only be because he hadn't yet met Keith. He made everyone better by his presence."

Transition Team Update

Obama picks transitionteam, IHT

"With the election now behind them, the Bush and Obama teams began the delicate 77-day transition period. The General Services Administration turned over 120,000 square feet, or 11,000 square meters, of office space in downtown Washington to the Obama transition team, and select Obama advisers were due to be given interim securityclearances."

12 Barack Obama Quotes on Technology

"We are a land of moon shots and miracles of science and technology that have touched the lives of millions across the planet. ... Pointing to President Kennedy's challenge to put a man on the moon, Mr. Obama said: "I will set big goals for this country as president - some so large that the technology to reach them does not yet exist."

Obama Tech Policy Advisor Is On The Transition Team, WIred

"President-elect Barack Obama has named a telecom policy and internet business veteran to his transition team, a move that signals the kind of people and policies that we might be hearing about in the days to come."

2009 Congressional and Presidential Transition, (new) GAO
Obama Transition Team Official website (online - but slow) Unfortunately, space doesn't show up in the drop-down menu as a major issue area or even under the "Additional Areas".
Presidential Transition, GAO
The United States Presidential Transition, U.S. Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs
Obama Transition Project Ethics Code

NASA Mars Opportunity Rover: Shake, Rattle, and Ready to Roll

"Opportunity got some good vibrations going this week while trying to remove dust from the mirror of the miniature thermal emission spectrometer, an instrument that measures temperatures and detects minerals from a distance. Using low-level motor commands on the rover's 1,680th sol, or Martian day of exploration (Oct. 14, 2008), Opportunity created a short vibration to shake the instrument's external scan mirror. Opportunity also got into position for the final imaging campaign at "Victoria Crater," driving onto a promontory known as "Cape Agulhas." From here, the rover acquired images of rocks exposed in a promontory known as "Cape Victory."

Larger image

Transition Team SWAT Teams

Obama Plans Could Shake Up Federal Workforce

"Obama intends to make government more efficient by sending "SWAT teams" from the White House into major agencies to improve programs and eliminate waste and inefficiency. He has promised to install a White House chief performance officer to work with federal agencies to set tough performance targets and hold managers accountable. He promises to save up to $40 billion a year by reducing government contracting, especially no-bid contracts."

GAO Lists Top "Urgent Issues" for Next President and Congress and Unveils New Website

"Acting Comptroller General Gene Dodaro Thursday released a list of 13 urgent issues the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has identified as among those needing the attention of President-Elect Obama and the 111th Congress during the transition and the first year of the new administration and Congress. The list is the centerpiece of a new Web site GAO launched Thursday that is designed to help make the transition an informed and smooth one across the federal government.

* Retirement of the Space Shuttle"

Editor's note: This bizarrely titled article by the Washington Examiner's space blogger Patricia Phillips "Black Panthers intimidate voters in Philadelphia, giant leap back from space age standards" was online yesterday according to her Twitter posting at the Washington Examiner. Now it is gone.

I posted a note on another of her articles asking what happened. She replied: "No, then again: not the same thing. I didn't remove anything or change anything to make me look "right." I removed it because one of my colleagues here was upset enough about the whole thing to cry. So I decided to remove it. Politics ain't worth crying about, IMHO, but there's no sense in adding to anyone else's emotional distress just for the sake of an internet post."

This is not the first time Phillips' postings have been pulled because of their content. You have to wonder if anyone at the Washington Examiner has any sense of editorial scrutiny or moral sensitivity with regard to what they allow to be posted on their newspaper's website. I guess this newspaper did not see what happened yesterday evening either.

More old thinking.

Local Elections

Olson wins, reclaiming House seat for GOP, Houston Chronicle

"Republican Pete Olson is celebrating his success returning a heavily Republican, suburban Houston congressional district to GOP control. Olson ousted Democratic Rep. Nick Lampson in Tuesday's election."

Democrats Kosmas, Grayson defeat GOP veterans Keller, Feeney, Orlando Sentinel

"I got licked," Feeney said in a short concession speech to supporters, some of whom were in tears. "There are differences between me and Kosmas, but I wish her well."

Democrat takes seat vacated by Cramer, Huntsville Times

"After one of the most contentious congressional races in recent history, the 5th Congressional District has a new U.S. representative in Parker Griffith."

NOAA-N Prime Satellite Arrives At Vandenberg For Launch

"The latest polar-orbiting operational environmental weather satellite developed by NASA for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, called NOAA-N Prime, arrived Tuesday by C-5A military cargo aircraft at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., in preparation for a Feb. 4, 2009, launch. NOAA-N Prime, built by Lockheed Martin, is similar to NOAA-N launched on May 20, 2005."

NOAA-N-Prime Satellite Mishap Investigation Report Released

"Proximate Cause: The NOAA N-PRIME satellite fell because the LMSSC operations team failed to follow procedures to properly configure the TOC, such that the 24 bolts that were needed to secure the TOC adapter plate to the TOC were not installed."

Earth Science Missions Anomaly Report: GOES/POES Program/POES Project: 6 Sep 2003

"As the NOAA-N Prime spacecraft was being repositioned from vertical to horizontal on the "turn over cart" at approximately 7:15 PDT today, it slipped off the fixture, causing severe damage. (See attached photo). The 18' long spacecraft was about 3' off the ground when it fell."

IFPTE on Election 2008

IFPTE Letter to Members on Election 2008 Issues

"It is has been a hard 8 years for NASA. President Bush's initial mistake was to downsize, outsource, and undermine the technical independence of NASA's civil-servant workforce. The Republican plan was to eliminate about a fifth of its independent in-house experts and most civil-service protections. This nave ideology, that federal laboratories such as NASA should be run like a private business with the cold, untechnical perspective of a bean-counter, tragically contributed to the Columbia disaster and led to the subsequent hurried and flawed planning for President Bush's Vision for Space Exploration."

NASA Federal Credit Union Buys Falls Church Bldg.

"Greenbelt, MD-based NASA Federal Credit Union purchased the retail property at 1130 W. Broad St. in Falls Church, VA, from Jackson Building LLC for nearly $2.73 million, or about $545 per square foot."


Vote From Space

SpaceX Announces DragonLab

SpaceX DragonLab

"DragonLab provides a platform for in-space experimentation, including recovery of pressurized and some unpressurized payloads, as well as deployment of small spacecraft. As a complete system, DragonLab provides for all aspects of operation: propulsion, power, thermal control, environmental control, avionics, communications, thermal protection, flight software, guidance, navigation and control, entry, descent and landing and recovery. SpaceX will host a DragonLab Users Workshop on November 6, 2008."

Tawani 2008 International Science Team Preps for Antarctic Expedition

"The team will be on the ice for forty-five days in the Untersee Oasis of Antarctica where they will launch an interdisciplinary campaign to study this remote ecosystem. By studying the lake, soil and glacier ecosystems of the region, the team can better understand the physical and chemical environments that constrain life, and also identify novel organisms that have exploited these unique niches. These investigations will shed light not only on how life adapts to such extremes on Earth, but also shapes the search for life on other planets such as Mars as well as the icy moons of the outer solar system planets Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune, and even provide a glimpse of what Earth's earliest biosphere was like billions of years ago."

Update from Dale Andersen in Cape Town: "Looks like we will leave tomorrow as scheduled assuming the weather holds - so we hope to be on the ice by 6am Thursday Novolazarevskaya time. Its about a 6 hour flight from Cape Town to the station. Three to four days later, we should be on our way to Lake Untersee if the weather is good."

Editor's note: Dale and I have been doing this sort of thing for a long time. We're almost certain that he and I did one of the first websites updated from Antarctica back in 1997. Go to this website and see "How We Built This Website"

To Pluto, with postage: Nine mementos fly with NASA's first mission to the last planet, CollectSpace

"On the way to see the governor -- it was a long drive, I think it may have been three to four hundred miles -- we got to talking about what we might do to get him a little more personally interested in the mission, other than just invite him to the launch," said Stern. "We came upon the thought, why don't we fly a state quarter of Florida? As Stern reasoned, they would launch from Florida, some of the parts of New Horizons had been built there and the state quarter just happened to have a space theme. They both liked the idea a lot but upon searching their pockets, came up empty for a quarter to illustrate their point to the governor. So, at a small town in the panhandle of Florida, they went to a Burger King."

CBO: An Analysis of NASA's Plans for Continuing Human Spaceflight After Retiring the Space Shuttle

"NASA indicates that the probability of achieving the IOC milestone for the Ares 1 and Orion vehicles by March 2015 is 65 percent--that is, its level of confidence about meeting that date is 65 percent, which the agency considers to be a reasonable level for purposes of program planning. (NASA estimates the feasibility of meeting such milestones by using standard probability analyses of its plans for development programs.) NASA's 65 percent figure takes into account the reduction in its fiscal year 2007 budget (relative to the Administration's request) of $577 million (in 2007 dollars), a change enacted in the Revised Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2007 (Public Law 110-5)."

Ocean Tomo Auctions Announces Impressive $12.8M Results from Fall 2008 Live Intellectual Property Auction

"We are delighted that exclusive rights to our patents were sold at auction. Not only does this sale maximize the value of the award-winning HHT technology by transferring it to a commercialization partner, it also benefits the U.S. taxpayers and the domestic economy," said Nona Cheeks, chief of NASA Goddard's Innovative Partnerships Program Office. "This is a great start and validation of our partnership with Ocean Tomo to commercialize NASA-funded technologies. There were several institutional hurdles to overcome to allow us to participate in the auction and given the many challenges, we've found the dedication of the Ocean Tomo team to be truly impressive."

Shuttle extension would cost NASA $2 billion a year, Orlando Sentinel

"Flying the space shuttle past its scheduled 2010 retirement date would cost NASA at least $2 billion a year, money that the agency doesn't have to spare, said NASA shuttle program manager John Shannon. Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama have both said they wanted the option of flying the shuttle beyond 2010. NASA has been looking into what it would take to keep the orbiters operating after September 2010, when NASA was supposed to mothball the fleet. That study is now finished, Shannon said. It found no problems with the supply of spare parts and services for the three shuttles if they flew until 2015. The workforce did not look like it would be an issue either. "We have not laid off anybody we would need to continue with the program," Shannon said."

NASA Request For Information: Scientist Participant Suborbital Science Pilot Program - FLIGHT RESEARCH - Science Mission Directorate

NASA Request For Information: Scientist Participant Suborbital Science Pilot Program - SERVICE PROVIDERS - Science Mission Directorate

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recognizes the advancement of the commercial suborbital spaceflight industry and requests information on potential human-tended flight experiments enabled by this capability. NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) is in the formulation phase of a possible new program to fly government-sponsored payloads and researchers on commercial suborbital systems with the intent of advancing SMD's goals and objectives. Responses to this RFI will be used to inform NASA's program planning."

Editor's note: These twin RFIs were initially issued on 28 Feb 2008 with responses due on 28 March 2008. Some time after Alan Stern quit his job at NASA as SMD AA, his replacement, Ed Weiler, decided that he was uninterested in this program and pulled back from it. Weiler rewrote the RFI such that it was now just a study and extended the due date to 5 December 2008. Weiler then took the money that had been set aside for it and moved it elsewhere. When asked, SMD told the Administrator's office that this funding was still there when in fact it was not. When eventually caught in this contradiction, Weiler said that he'd put the money back - but he then dragged his feet and was caught a second time without having restored the funding.

The original intent of this program was to utilize the growing potential of the emerging U.S. suborbital space access industry. Not only would NASA get access to frequent, meaningful, and cheap microgravity, it would also help to support this growing market sector. Alas, it would seem that Ed Weiler's interests are elsewhere - on non-human spaceflight. Backward thinking at a time when NASA should be looking forward.

Reader note: About 3 years ago we started to look at jettisoning the Early Ammonia Servicer from the ISS. After a long, hard fight we got the go-ahead to do it, and we jettisoned it back in July 2007. It looks like it's going to be reentering the atmosphere Sunday night - we expect most, but not all, of it to burn up on entry. Here's the latest data:

The predicted reentry of EAS has moved up another four hours. Reentry now expected Sunday afternoon, US time. Confidence of prediction time and location still remains low.

1. U.S. Satellite Number / International Designator / Common Name / Satellite Type / Owner: 31928/1998-067BA/ISS DEB (EAS)/DEBRIS/ ISS
2. Date of launch : 20 NOV 1998
3. Orbit number / Direction of travel at predicted reentry time / Predicted reentry date and time in GMT : REV 7450/ASCENDING /02 NOV 2040Z
4. Latitude and longitude of predicted reentry : 44.2 DEG N 25.8 DEG E
5. Uncertainty in predicted reentry time : DECAY WINDOW IS PLUS OR MINUS 01 DAY(S).
6. Orbital inclination : INCLINATION 051.6 DEGREES.
7. Time of next report : NEXT REPORT 1 DAYS BEFORE DECAY.

NASA OIG: More Stringent Entrance Criteria Needed for Project Life-Cycle Reviews (Orion Project)

"The Orion Project Office (Project Office) conducted a Phase A life-cycle review with a vehicle configuration (606 vehicle) that was not at the proper maturity level to proceed to Phase B. Specifically, a required engineering design analysis conducted prior to the life-cycle review disclosed that the vehicle configuration required a reduction in weight, power, and instrumentation. However, instead of delaying the Phase A life-cycle review until the correct vehicle configuration (607 vehicle) could be reviewed, the Project Office proceeded with a nonconforming vehicle. As a result, a significant portion of the vehicle configuration that eventually did proceed to Phase B did not receive the benefit of a Phase A life-cycle review, nor was it completely evaluated for compliance with requirements."

KSC's Cabana says job cuts are coming no matter what, Orlando Sentinel

"The new director of Kennedy Space Center, Bob Cabana, said thousands of job losses are coming to the center and Brevard County, whether the space shuttle is retired on schedule in 2010 or the next administration gives it a brief reprieve. ... "There are going to be cuts. There's no two ways about it," Cabana told reporters on Friday morning in his first press conference since staring the job earlier in the week. "The space shuttle program is going to end. Even if it gets extended for a little bit, eventually it's going to end. And when it ends there are going to be people out of work."



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